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1/25/19 Gut Check: What is Free Will In the Era of Microbiome

Updated: Oct 22, 2019

The human gut microbiota is a "forgotten organ" with unrecognized effects on our bodies. However, it is an organ unlike any other, consisting of multiple different genetic interests, each vying for habitat and resources. Microbes don’t have brains, but they might hijack their hosts’ nervous systems. Gut microbes produce neurotransmitters that are identical to our own. Do these microbe neurotransmitters change how we think and behave. Some evidence suggests that they do. Indeed, some of our food choices and behaviors are not ours alone, but instead might occur because of our gut bacteria. What does this mean for the concept of free will? Do we need to revise the concept of willpower when it comes to our weight and food choices?


This conversation we'll discuss how evolution governs our relationship with microbes and how this knowledge can help improve human health and prevent chronic diseases. Dr. Joe Alcock is rated 5.0 out of 5.0 on RateMyProfessors.com. "Amazing", "Inspirational" are a few of the descriptors. The area Dr. Alcock is fascinated in is the intersection of medicine and evolutionary biology, focusing on evolution and the human microbiota. Joe Alcock MD MS is an emergency physician at the UNM and has a Master’s degree in Neurobiology and Behavior. He finished residency in Emergency Medicine and is a professor of emergency medicine at UNM. He has taught the science of evolutionary medicine since 2008. His current research interests focus on the gut-brain axis – how microbes interact with stress and sleep to possibly worsen chronic diseases.


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